France threatens to force striking workers to return to jobs
The French government threatens workers striking to break blockades on fuel depots.
On Tuesday, the French government warned striking workers that they may soon be forced to return to their jobs in order to break the blockades on paralyzed oil refineries and fuel depots.
French protestors surrounded gas stations that are low on fuel or completely dry as labor protests at energy giants Total and Esso-ExxonMobil now enter their third week.
TotalEnergies offered on Tuesday evening to consult unions whose workers were not on strike while renewing an offer to the hard-left CGT union currently leading the protests to negotiate.
"If the CGT removes the blockades of the sites before midday (1000 GMT) tomorrow, it will be welcome at this dialogue meeting," Total's statement said.
Government spokesperson Olivier Veran had already warned that strikers at TotalEnergies could be forced back to work, and called the strike "excessive and out of line."
It also said it is willing to advance annual pay negotiations to this month.
CGT coordinator at the oil giant, Eric Sellini, however, said that they are still waiting for details from management on what they want to negotiate. His union is asking for a 10% price hike for all of 2022.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne revealed that the government was prepared to use force to order staff at depots run by Exxon's Esso France unit back to work, with similar measures possible at Total depots if wage talks don't lead to a solution.
Some workers said tensions could rise even more if the government began to force the refinery workers back.
The CGT union called the government's plans violent and suspended all ongoing negotiations with it.
31% of gas stations in France were grappling with supply problems on Tuesday, which led to some regions adopting rationing policies, such as in the south.
Massive oil strike in France causing fuel shortages
The fuel crisis in France has caused massive queues at gas stations across the country as the CGT union has been spearheading a refinery workers’ strike over the last two weeks for a 10% pay raise amid the current energy crisis.
Employees at the French energy groups TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil are outraged over the immense wealth amassed by the two refineries after a price surge allowed the companies to commission mindblowing dividends, as well as additional special dividends to investors.
Workers from TotalEnergies are demanding a share of the company’s €8bn profit, one of the many oil companies that took advantage of the price surge triggered by the Ukrainian conflict, despite that government officials have been urging the company to resolve the dispute.
As of now, three of Total’s refineries are halted, including its largest in Normandy, as well as a fuel depot near Flanders in the north, after a blockade began almost two weeks ago.
As for ExxonMobil, wage disputes have been going on for weeks.
In some petrol stations, especially in the vicinities of Paris and Northern France, the wait queue can go as far as reaching two hours. Lack of patience over the wait prompted a driver in Haute-Savoie to stab a man in his thirties as he accused him of overtaking in a queue.
According to Reuters, the strikes have caused a reduction of France’s total refinery output by more than 60%.